ramblings from the hive mind

My Hackberry

18 December 2009 | View comments
Damien Austin-Walker

I have been holding out for a decent phone for the past two years. Nothing out there so far has had a good enough specification for me to commit to 12, 18 or 24 months on contract to get one and I can’t afford to buy one outright. The iPhone is a nice toy but the proprietry aspect of Apple annoys me and so would the shortcomings of the iPhone itself (battery life, can’t cursor back through your typing etc). I am now quite keen on the new Nokia N900 which has maemo 5 as it’s operating system. As maemo is based on Debian doing whatever I want with such a phone would be as easy as…well, as easy as doing what I want with my computer. And I like that.

Still I am not quite yet ready for the plunge and am working myself up to tying myself back into a contract. In the meantime I noticed a Blackberry Pearl 8100 going to waste in the office. It was out of contract and I didn’t want to renew it so I thought I would get some PAYG sims off the same telecomms provider. I did this because I didn’t want to have to bother unlocking the phone or having to pay the telecomms company £15 admin fee just to read out the unlock code to me! However when the (free) sims arrived I soon discovered that although when topped up regulary I got unlimited free data I could not take advantage of this free data via the blackberry. Data works fine in a 3G dongle and works fine in my usual unlocked phone but it won’t work with the Pearl as the telcomms company do not support the ‘Blackberry Service Books’ on PAYG for this model of phone. The telecoms company customer care team told me that without the blackberry service books I could not use the internet or email on the device and the only way to get the service books as they are not suported/provided by them is to pay for a Blackbery Internet service direct from Blackberry. This kind of defeats the object of getting a PAYG SIM with free data in the first place.

Anyway rant nearly over and I’ll get into the good stuff. I now wanted to unlock the phone so I could try another SIM and attempt to get it working for me. As you can probabaly start to guess I am a bit stubborn and there was no way I was going to pay £15 to big rich company to unlock the phone so I decided to do it myself (even if the time it takes me to do it ends up in theory costing more than that).

So I will explain how I:-

  • Unlocked the phone for free
  • Set it up to use data with a free PAYG SIM from new mobile phone provider GiffGaff *
  • Installed Java applications which would work with the data setup (unlike the built in browser and email system)

*GiffGaff is a “People Powered Mobile Phone Network” and data is free until 25th May 2010 (providing you top up) while they take advice from the community on what the data charges should be.

Unlocking the phone

Apologies for this part, I am lazy and did this on a Windows XP computer as all the guides out there are for windows. I mainly used this one.

Install Blackberry Desktop Manager version 4.7

If it asks if you want to do automatic updates say no - we don’t want a newer version.

Make sure you have .NET Framework installed or get it from here (version 2 is fine also)

I downloaded the firmware for my model of Blackberry from Install this on your PC then go to c:\program files\common files\research in motion\apploader and delete the file vendor.xml

Install MFI MultiLoader from here

I then spent hours downloading the following files from Rapidshare (it takes hours if you don’t pay rapidshare as they restrict your downloads)

Extract these and copy to “C:\MML” overwriting all files there

Now open MFI Multiloader and connect the phone to the computer via USB. After some time it will show ‘PASS’ in green.

[picture to come]

The phone will show a 1 on the screen like thus.

Now disconnect and on the blackberry keyboard type START

Shut down MFI Multi loader, reconnect the blackberry and open blackberry desktop manager

Click Application Loader. Click Start in Add/Remove Applications When the Device Security Password dialog box appears if you don’t have a device password (I didn’t) just click next. If the Communication Port Selection dialog box appears. Click Next. Click Next.

To add any of the base applications provided in the list, select the check box beside the application. This is a good point to pause to download Opera Mini unzip this somewhere then back in Blackberry Desktop Manager , click Browse. Select the Opera application loader .alx file. You can do this with any other .alx applications you have found that you also want to install. Click all the Nexts and Finish. It will take some time for the software changes to be applied so make sure you have left yourself enough time to wait around, you don’t want to brick the phone by having to unplug it and leave the house before it’s finished.

Setting up Data settings

As we have no Blackberry service books we need to set up the TCP setting directly. On the phone go to Options > Advanced Option> TCP

For the GiffGaff SIM I’m using set


Username for APN: giffgaff

Password for APN: password

Ta-da! you now have data. Note that the built in blackberry browser will not work without the servcie books - this is why we installed Opera Mini, this is now the web browser you need to use.

Installing further applications

As I have mentioned neither the builtin browser or email work without the service books so we need to find replacement applications that will work directly with the TCP settings.

I have installed:-

LogicMail - for my work imap email
Gmail - for my gmail account
UberTwitter - for Twitter
TwiXtreme - you can never have too many Twitter clients
IM+ - for Skype
GoogleMaps - you guessed it

Now if you can find the .alx files for these you can install them via the application Loader method above using your (windows) PC. However that’s not my style and I wanted to get back to Linux as quickly as possible…

Linux Java Application Loader

I found this great blog l on how to use Barry to do all klinds of things with your blackberry from a linux machine. I am going to detail now the bits I found useful.

Firstly rather than compile from source I found a PPA and just added ppa:doctormo/barry-snapshot to my sources list. I updated the respository and installed Barry via Synaptic.

Some useful barry commands


btool -t (-h)


But the one we want right now is the Java Loader

bjavaloader -h

To use the java loader you first need to grab .cod files of the java applications you want to install

To get hold of the .cod files I downloaded OTA Loader and ran it under Wine. You need to find the .jad file URL for the app and paste it into OTA Loader it will then find the individual .cod files and download them for you. I have linked some of the applications I use in the list above.

If you are having a problem finding URL’s to .jad files then follow this guide which neatly shows how to use the User Agent Switcher extension for firefox to make it look like you are browsing from a Blackberry and you will be able to access the .jad files/URLs in the same way you would if you were installing direct from the phone.

Once you have all the .cod files then just load each one as shown in the following syntax example

bjavaloader load ubertwitter.cod

There are usually more than one cod file for each app and you need to load them all before the app appears on the phone.

Now the Blackbery is unlocked, set up to use data via TCP settings with no service books and is customised with applications for browsing, email and twitter. Now perhaps you understand why I am not quite ready yet to part with 500 nicker for a state of the art phone.

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